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CHAPTER LXV
ARCHITECTURE  AND  ART UNDER  THE   SAFAVI   DYNASTY
Isfahan is half the world.—Persian Proverb.
Isfahan, the Safavi Capital.—The masterpieces of
Persian architecture under the Safavi monarchs are mostly
to be found at Isfahan, and I therefore propose to describe
the Safavi capital and some of its chief buildings which
I have examined.1 To do so is to describe the golden
prime of medieval Persian architecture, which still serves
as a model to-day, except in the cities of the north where
Russian - designed houses have been adopted by the
imitative sons of Iran.
The Royal Square.—Isfahan is situated on the left or
north bank of the Zenda Rud, on a level fertile piece of
land, and at its zenith may have had a population of
three hundred thousand inhabitants. Its heart was the
Maydan-i-Shah, or "Royal Square," enclosed by long
ranges of double-storied buildings; Herbert declared it to
be cc as spacious, as pleasant and aromatick a Market as
any in the Universe." The dimensions of the Maydan are
560 yards by 174 yards, and, as it was the royal polo
ground, these measurements are of some interest.2 The
game of polo reached the height of its popularity at the
period we have now reached, and matches are described
by both Sherley and Chardin.8 The marble goal-posts
1 In addition to my own notes, I have consulted Curzon's Persia and Coste's Monu-
mmfs modcrnes de la Perse 5 also the article on Persian Art in Encyclop. of Religion and
Ethics, ed. by James Hastings.
s The present measurements of a polo ground are 300 by 200 yards,
* Vide Tm Thousand Miles, etc., p. 342, where I have collected  the accounts of
these travellers.
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